Historic 25th Street in downtown Ogden looks a lot like an old-fashioned Main Street, U.S.A., with locally-owned shops lining both sides of the street and business owners watching out for one another when needed.
Haille Van Patten, community relations manager at The Ogden Downtown Alliance, said that the word she could come up with to best describe the environment of Ogden’s 25th Street Historic District is “community.”
But behind the facade is a reliance on what had once been considered the mortal enemy of traditional retail: the internet.
The internet has been a curse for some mom-and-pop retail stores, but it’s also become an essential, lifesaving tool for others. There’s no secret platform or social media recipe for Ogden-grown retailers to succeed. When local retail businesses thrive, they help provide the community with its unique flare and charm, which only Ogden has to offer.
This has been reality for many small retail stores on Main Streets all across America.
According to the January – February 2020 American Planning Association’s PAS Memo, written by Bobby Boone and Rick Liu, in 2016, “96 percent of Americans with internet access had made an online purchase, and more importantly, 80 percent of them had made an online purchase within the past month.”
The memo goes on to state, “Not only is this disrupting brick-and-mortar retail businesses, but it is fundamentally changing the way retailers market and transact with their customers.”
In a 2019 Forbes article by Trevor Clawson, he describes the environment on an average British shopping street. Due to online shopping trends, “The number of shops lying empty rose by 7,500 in 2018, more than 43,000 shops, pubs and restaurants opened in that year but this was offset by 50,828 closures, feeding through to a net closure rate of 37 percent.”
Those numbers don’t reflect Ogden’s situation. They do provide insight as to what local businesses have been up against with the introduction of — and increased use of — online shopping options and how retail business is conducted in the internet-era.
The above visualization shows how Ogden’s Historic District has changed in the past 14 years. Businesses are split by category of business-type, such as service, restaurants, entertainment, retail, etc. on the 100 and 200 Blocks.
“It’s a big risk owning a small business,” said Janet Kendrick, owner of Four Sisters Furniture & Custom Framing, one of 25th Street’s newest retailers.
Kendrick knew what she was getting into before she became the owner of her business, having taken over after working there on-again, off-again for 29 years.
“The store had a stale website when I took over,” Kendrick said. “It was there but dormant.”
To get the business up to speed, Kendrick changed locations. She immediately knew that the business needed a stronger online presence. Kendrick knows that people are shopping in their pajamas.
“It’s convenient,” she said, and she admits that she’s no different.
Having reopened in July of last year, Kendrick’s goals are to make sure that every product in her showroom at her store is also on her new website, which is still a work in progress. She also wants to begin offering options for her clients to purchase online and have the items shipped to their homes, including larger furniture items.
Kendrick utilizes social media to stay engaged with her clientele consistently. However, at the moment, her website is her bigger priority.
Another colorful, locally owned retail store on 25th Street is The Queen Bee, a “hodgepodge” bookstore and chocolate treasure trove. The Queen Bee is known by locals for their excellent chocolate varieties, local crafts and unique gifts. They also carry crafts from over 20 local cosigners.
“The Queen Bee doesn’t have a website,” said owner Robyn Stark. “It did at one point, but social media is invaluable to our business.”
Stark didn’t change the business model of the store when she took over. The Queen Bee’s business model has been doing well; Stark just added her own touch.
Like most business owners, Stark uses the internet on a daily basis, often to research new products that might be a good fit for her store and clients. Stark does her best to be sure that she’s promoting The Queen Bee on social media consistently, which helps her keep open communication with her clientele.
With the seemingly unending variety of products that The Queen Bee offers its clients, Stark knew she needed a program that was simple to use and headache-free to help her keep track of her diverse inventory and to free up time for her other responsibilities as an already busy business owner.
There are plenty of platforms to choose from so that retailers can save time and conduct business online effectively.
Square is a much used point-of-sale platform that is being increasingly utilized by both small and big business owners.
According to Glassdoor.com, at its capacity, Square has provided 5,005 jobs since they were founded in 2009. Statistia.com reports that Amazon.com employed just under 800,000 persons in 2019. As mentioned above, there’s no secret platform for retailers to follow to succeed.
Stark did her research before she decided on which point-of-sale platform she was going to implement. If you type “Best point-of-sale systems for small business” into Google, nearly 500,000,000 results come up. The Queen Bee, depending on the circumstances, uses multiple point-of-sale platforms to help manage the business they do.
“I use a program built specially for Mac in my shop and Square when I am off-site,” Stark said. “The checkout program helps me keep track of inventory, print labels, run transactions and returns.”
However, COVID-19 has significantly changed how businesses are operating all over the U.S.A., and for the community of local business owners who are located on 25th Street, it’s no different.
With Davis County ordering closure of all non-essential businesses as of midnight, April 3, these are tough times for many businesses.
Some Weber County retailers have taken it upon themselves to shut down for the safety of the community. Others are still keeping their doors open, including The Four Sisters Furniture & Custom Framing and The Queen Bee.
One business that has closed its physical doors to the public, just for the time being, is The Needlepoint Joint, which has been located on 25th Street since 1996.
Amelia Jones took over the reins of her mother’s business and describes The Needlepoint Joint as a “destination business,” often drawing clientele from up to four hours away.
The Needlepoint Joint has filled a very specific niche in the Ogden community since the early 1970s. Adapting to the internet and the increased use of online shopping were both things that Jones knew The Needlepoint Joint had to plan for many years ago.
“We saw the writing on the wall pretty early on,” Jones said. “We first had a website in the late 1990s; people would call us and come pick up their orders in person.”
Jones doesn’t sell through Amazon.com at all. The Needlepoint Joint has and maintains a website with full capabilities to ship products all over the world. They also maintain an active relationship with their social media channels.
“We display our products with pictures,” Jones said. “Textiles are tangible, so we try to use vibrant colors when we post on our social channels.”
Recently, due to COVID-19, The Needlepoint Joint has been active on their social media outlets to keep communication open with their customers. This allows them to keep their clientele base informed and updated on events.
They now offer online group “knit night” sessions through the Zoom app. This has helped them retain as much of normal routine as possible, even while their doors are closed.
An April 8 article in The Standard-Examiner by Megan Olson quoted Gov. Herbert’s words of advice: ‘“My encouragement, my call to action to help us with the economic recovery, is for every Utah business with less than 500 employees that has been impacted by COVID-19 to apply for a (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, an emergency disaster loan or both as soon as possible.”’
Many businesses have already applied for government aid, including The Four Sisters Furniture & Custom Framing. In the meantime, 25th Street businesses are reaching out to the community to show support and to provide support.
Kendrick doesn’t believe she’ll receive any federal aid until late summer 2020, based on the influx of applicants and her experience with applying.
Most of the businesses in the area are offering curbside pickup for clients who prefer this option while all of the restaurants are only offering this option now. Tattoo parlors and salons have been forced to shut their doors until further notice.
“This street, its businesses and business owners, are a tight-knit group of passionate individuals who want Ogden to be vibrant, diverse and successful,” Van Patten said. “We’ve seen a lot of ‘local supporting local’ content on Facebook and Instagram, businesses joining forces to do giveaways on their different platforms — encouraging people to follow each other’s accounts, in the midst of COVID-19, local businesses have been utilizing the internet to share their wins — no matter how small. They’re sharing positive messaging centered around Ogden’s strong local community.”
The Ogden downtown community has come together during this economic tremor in a new way. Currently, retailers and other businesses on Historic 25th Street who are still open are serving the community in any ways they can as well as supporting each other while still doing their best to stay competitive and to stay in business.